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Mustangs Eye District Final

McDonald County Must Defeat Hillcrest To Get There by Special to the McDonald County Press / AL GASPENY | November 4, 2021 at 9:49 a.m.
Al Gaspeny/Special to McDonald County Press McDonald County linemen work during practice Monday at Mustang Stadium. The Mustangs have won seven in a row, and dominant line play on both sides of the ball has been key to that success.

A trip to the Class 4, District 6, championship game is at stake when McDonald County hosts Hillcrest on Friday.

The second-seeded Mustangs (9-1) have won seven in a row and are coming off back-to-back shutouts, including last week's 35-0 rout of Monett in the opening round of the playoffs. The sixth-seeded Hornets (2-8) enter the semifinal showdown after upsetting third-seeded Carl Junction 24-14.

The winningest football team in McDonald County history is rolling and isn't ready for the ride to end.

"This is a special group of guys, not only the seniors, but the whole team," Mustang coach Kellen Hoover said. "I'm proud of what we've done. But at the same time, they're not satisfied. They want to keep going. They don't want this season to be over because they sense how special it is as well."

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Mustang Stadium, where the home team is 6-0.

On paper, McDonald County, ranked eighth in the state, is the favorite. The Mustangs feature an attack engineered by Big 8 offensive player of the year Cole Martin and are averaging 33.7 points per game during their winning streak. The defense, sparked by an aggressive front, is yielding 10.5 points per outing in that same span.

But games are decided on the field, not paper. Hillcrest has won two of three after an 0-7 start.

"They're playing with confidence," Hoover said. "They've got a little momentum. They'll mix the run and pass."

Versatile McDonald County can strike on the ground or through the air, depending on the opportunities that arise.

"There's probably some added confidence there, as far as we've done this before, we've come back," Hoover said when asked how players have reacted to the streak. "In different situations like that, I'd say there probably is some added confidence, which is great."

Senior running back Jakobe Montes, dealing with an ankle injury, was in uniform last week but didn't get a carry. The Mustangs hope to have the hard-charging Montes back in action Friday. In a testament to the team's depth, sophomore Destyn Dowd stepped up and rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries.

Penalties have been the only real irritant lately for McDonald County. There was a recent rash of holding calls. Then, against Monett, three touchdown passes on the same drive were negated by ineligible-man-downfield infractions. That sequence didn't cost the Mustangs because Colton Ruddick eventually scored on a 22-yard scamper. Part of the problem was unlucky timing. But in a tight contest, there could be repercussions if the flags fly.

"We've got to get heavier on our double teams for us to not get downfield," Hoover said.

The McDonald County-Hillcrest victor will meet the winner between top-seeded West Plains and fourth-seeded Logan-Rogersville.

"At the end of the day, we've got to execute our game plan," Hoover said. "Our kids have done a great job of executing, especially lately, and they continue to get better every week."

Hillcrest at McDonald County

District 6 Semifinals

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Where: Mustang Stadium.

Records: Sixth-seeded Hillcrest is 2-8; second-seeded McDonald County is 9-1.

Livestream: KNEO.org. Per MSHSAA rules, there's a $10 (plus tax) fee for the video. The audio is free.

Print Headline: Mustangs Eye District Final

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